Issue 39: Tangents w/out the Trivia

Several months ago Peter Lynn, the world renown kite flier, and kite builder flew his latest entry for the title of the Worlds Largest Kite. Peter flew a kite representing the Kuwait Flag. 900 sq. m/ 9687 sq. ft. at the Portsmouth International Kite Festival in England. This huge kite wasn’t Peter’s first attack in the World record Largest Kite battlefield, nor is Peter Lynn the only kite maker in the race for that coveted title!

Between 1981 and 1996 the title of Worlds largest kite was held by a Dutch team headed by Gerard Van Der Loo, which flew the CS 550, a parafoil measuring 553 sq. m/ 5952 sq. ft. In 1995 Peter Lynn created his first entry into the Largest Kite contest and in 1996 at 630 sq. m/ 6781 sq. ft. Peter flew a kite he called Megabite, as its resembled the prehistoric aquatic creature. For seven years Peter Lynn was at the head of the pack and created several variations of Megabite (both large and small) along with Mega Ray, which was another huge kite, similar in size to Megabite, also depicting an aquatic creature.

Peter held claim to the title World Largest Kite until 2003 when Guinness Records was supposed to have awarded the Largest honor to a Chinese cigarette company for a kite which I have yet to find any information or details about? According to Peter Lynn, the Guinness Book records committee changed the criteria they used to determine the worlds largest kite, by including the tail parts as part of the lift surface of the Chinese kite. (A kite component not previously considered in the total area of the kite)

Peter sent several inquiries to Guinness in an effort to determine why this new criteria had been established? Peter never received a reply! So, to solve the problem the best way Peter knew how, he constructed his new Kuwait Flag kite, which is now larger then the claimed Chinese record, or any other kite in the world for that matter!

Does this latest kite flight by Peter Lynn regain for him the title Worlds Largest Kite? It really all depends on “Who decides it’s a Worlds Record?” The point of my commentary here isn’t to determine whether Peters kite is/was larger then the Chinese kite. Whether he currently holds/doesn’t hold that record! It really isn’t about whether tails should/ shouldn’t be considered in total area of any kite. My discussion is about whether a beverage company that prints books is the most qualified to decide this or any record concerning kite flying of any kind.

Authors Note: The recently released 2005 edition of the Guinness Book of records lists Peter Lynn’s Megabite as the Worlds Largest Kite. The listing contains the comment, “…Including the tails…” So does that mean Guinness’s criteria now, only includes kites with tails?

The “Worlds Famous” Guinness Records book was first printed around 1955. One of it’s primary goals was to claim the title of “Worlds Oldest Brewery” and also to help answer all those bar room “trivia” questions about, most, heaviest, oldest, smallest or largest of literally, anything. It is pretty easy for the Guinness Stout Company to claim the title of Oldest Brewery at 255 years old, the criteria simply being company records, and a calendar. The record for the Worlds Highest Mountain (Everest at 29,028 ft) is also easy to determine with the use of a tape measure! The criteria for the Worlds largest Antelope (2000 lb.) is again easily awarded by the use of a scale!

Much of the Guinness Records reporting is objective. For example, odds are good that no one is going to find a mountain that’s higher than Mt. Everest, but it is entirely possible that an Antelope heavier then 2000 lb. might yet be discovered. If Guinness only had fixed records, such as Everest to officiate over they would not be in their 50th edition, and more then 90 million copies sold! (World record for the Most copyrighted books sold!)

When Guinness Records “accepts” a record one of their considerations is that the record be verified by an official organization directly connected with the record submission. For example, when aviation records are accepted by Guinness, they are first and most often verified by the international group, Federation Aeronautique International (FAI). This organization determines and verifys records such as the fastest jet, the highest flight, or most orbits of the earth. Of course, Guinness can resort to their company use of tape measure and/or scales when aviation records concern the heaviest airplane, or thewidest wing span. But even in the case of The highest rate of chicken egg laying Guinness relies on the verification of the College of Agriculture at the University of Missouri as their Official Egg Laying Authority. If Guinness says that they prefer to accept verified records. One VERY big question on my mind is, who verifies the record for the Worlds longest kiss or the Worlds largest bubble gum bubble?

I believe that much of Peter’s problem with Guinness and the criteria for the Worlds largest Kite is that there is no International verification authority for kite flying records.

You will all recall that for many years Valerie Govig and the magazine KITE LINES kept international lists of kite worlds records. With the demise of that authentication authority, there is a void in accurate kite record keeping. I am the first to agree that Kitelines did not verify many of the records for kites that they listed over the years directly. For example, radar, or other instrument verification was required to officially verify the record for the highest kite flight but Kitelines did determine almost all of the criteria for that and other kite records.

This void and lack of accepted (and consistent) kite records criteria seems to have been filled by a beverage company! Please keep in mind that I do enjoy the Guinness Book of Records, I read my copy frequently. (and buy each new edition when it comes out) BUT also keep in mind that Guinness is in the business of “Printing” records. Ultimately, the Guinness company didn’t really use that mentioned tape measure to find out how high Mt. Everest was, but relied on some other authority to give them a record to print.

When Kitelines was listing and verifying kite records there were still problems with Guinness. In 1985 kitefliers in Chicago, IL had difficulties with Guinness accepting a worlds record claim. Ray Merry, Andy Jones, myself and others kite fliers flew what we claimed to be The Largest stunt kite train in square area. The Chicago Hook and Ladder consisted of 85 six foot Flexifoil stunt kites for a total of 1003 sq. ft. The train flew for six minutes on 9/15/85 and made loops left and right to show control. These criteria were originally determined by Rick Bell, Mix McGraw (current world record holder for Most Stunt Kites in a Train) and other record attempt stunt fliers and were recognized criteria for such a stunt kite record attempt by Kitelines magazine.

Following Guinness (and Kitelines) requirements I forwarded pictures, video tape, notarized statements of the Mayor of Schamburg IL (location of the flight) and Chief of the Chicago Fire Department (we used two fire trucks as anchors for the stack) and other impartial witnesses. I included diagrams of the kites, steering mechanism, and flying lines. I also included newspaper articles and clippings reporting the flight attempt. I sent nearly two pounds of verification to both Guinness and Kitelines. Valerie Govig responded and included our record in the Kitelines list of records. I NEVER heard from Guinness! Yes/No?Maybe? Nothing! I never received a reply!

To help all of us in Chicago feel a little better Valerie did point out that Guinness might not have accepted the record because in 1985 they claimed to “…not accept new records, but only the breaking of existing records listed in the book…” Although I, at least, would have expected a letter telling me that the record was not accepted, but as I said, NO REPLY!

Authors NOTE: After flying 85 six foot Flexifoils we attempted to break the record of The most stunt kites in a Train which was 147 in 1985. We launched 150 six foot Flexifoils which flew for 2.5 minutes and broke two 3000# test flying lines. See Kitelife from July 2000.

This commentary isn’t about changing how Guinness does business, or that they should reorganize their criteria for accepting kite records in their book! And I am the first to agree that the honor of being listed in the Guinness Book of Worlds Records is much sought after, and ultimately, a just reward for any world record attempt. (although I wonder about the honor for Largest picture made out of toasted bread)? To get into “The Book” is a lofty and difficult goal, and listing is considered an honor. (Not to mention some kind of advertising and publicity for the toaster company and the toasted bread artist?)

With Kitelines no longer in print, and Valerie Govig no longer keeping world kite records we need an International verification committee, of some sort, to make our records official This committee would be difficult to create, as many kite organizations are national rather then internationally oriented. For example, sport kite records could be authenticated, and criteria determined by the International Rules Book Committee (AKA, STACK, AJSKA). Although I don’t think many of the members of that committee would enjoy added responsibilities, when much of their time and energy is devoted to simply organizing competitions around the world! But the IRBC is international and that’s what is needed if any world records verification is to be official.

The IRBC only governs international sport kite competition flying! What about single line kite records, or, fighters, buggies or any other of the varied types of kite flying, and world records these other areas of kiteflying might attempt. The AKA has a Kitemakers Committee, which would be best qualified to officiate over certain types of world record kite attempts, but this committee is not international either. I’m pretty sure that they would also not be eager to accept the extra responsibilities, and work load of a record keeping committee. Kite Surfing records have been listed in the latest edition of the Guinness Book. My commentary could apply to that aspect of kiteflying as well! Who verified those records, or did Guinness set that criteria as well? I cannot really answer that right now?

What the kite flying community needs is an International world record committee. A group of fliers that could determine criteria for all kite world records. True, even with such a committee the odds of a Chinese cigarette company, or even Guinness Records Book accepting this International group might be slim! But without any group to stand up for “correct, consistent and accurate” record attempts, I believe that listings in the Guinness Book of World records will continue to be determined by, “a stout company and a printer” and most kite records will continue to be listed in the Toys section of the Guinness book!

NOTE: There are four kite records listed in Guinness…

  • Largest kite flown – Peter Lynn
  • Most stunt kites flown by a single person – Mix McGraw
  • Longest distance by a kite surfer – Neil Hutchinson, Kent Marincovik, and Fabrice Collard
  • Fastest crossing of the English Channel by a kite surfer – Chris Calthrop, Jason Furness and Andy Preston

Most kites on a single line, Duration kiteflying, Longest kite and Highest altitude for kite flight are no longer listed.

You will please note that three of the four current listed kite records were added in the last 2-3 years.

So much for not recognizing new records?

Guinness does recognize The Worlds smallest kite on their website, but not in their book!

Does that mean there isn’t a record for the Worlds smallest kite or only people with computers recognize the Smallest kite in the world?

So, my original question still applies, “Who decides it’s a World record?”

In Conclusion, I’ve always been told, “If you’re not part of the solution, your part of the problem” Because Kitelife is an International publication, and a meeting place for kite fliers from all over the world, I’d like to solicit comments, ideas, and suggestions to this commentary. Send your comments to me care of Kitelife by clicking on my name below, and I’ll report on possible solutions to Who decides it’s a World Record? in the next issue of Kitelife.

Good winds,

Al Hargus

For more information about the beer and print
company, visit the Guinness world record web site.